Environment protection and waste management in Rwanda – The New Times

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IN RWANDA, the protection of the environment has meant changing the perspectives behind waste management. The responsibility to protect the environment through waste management has been presented as an individual and collective effort. The successful protection of the environmental collectively involves citizens, waste collection companies, manufacturers, and the national government. This essay outlines the context, sources of excess waste production and best practices of waste management that lead to environmental protection. Consequently, the collaborative approach to waste management through reducing, reusing, and recycling (MININFRA, 2020) disposable material is explained as a solution considering existing counterarguments to recycling.
To provide a basis for the need to protect nature, environmental activists have assessed the global trash problem and how if not mitigated, will have dire effects on future generations. The Global Waste Management Outlook report by the United Nations Environment (UN Environment, 2019) cites the ever-increasing solid waste disposal in Sub-Saharan Africa as a detriment to development and human health. Additionally, the report indicates of lower-income countries in Africa and Asia that: 
… cities generate between 7 and 10 billion tonnes of waste per year, figures that are expected to rise, even double, in lower-income African and Asian cities by 2030 (UNEP 2015). It also estimates that 3 billion people lack access to adequate waste disposal facilities, which poses health risks (infections, exposure to chemicals, dust) and generates environmental impacts (soil and water pollution, GHG emissions), (UN Environment, 2019 p.220).
Waste management involves the generation, reduction, collection, removal, and repurposing of rubbish—any worthless, unwanted material that is rejected or thrown out such as trash, debris or litter that is either biodegradable or non-biodegradable. Recent evidence of waste (mostly organic) produced in Kigali City over the past eight years shows a bleak increment from 400 to 1000 tons daily (Rajashekar and Bowers, (2020). Excess rubbish in Rwanda is produced from households, farming fields, companies, hotels, factories, and hospitals and disposed in landfills. According to research conducted by Hoornweg and Freire (2013), this increment is indicative of the anticipated increasing population and development of cities on the continent. They make a case for local government responsibility to develop comprehensive policies and mandate institutions to regulate waste managements and state that:
Integrated solid waste management (ISWM) reflects the need to approach solid waste in a comprehensive manner with careful selection and sustained application of appropriate technology, working conditions, and establishment of a ‘social license’ between the community and designated waste management authorities (most commonly local government). [This is based]… on the appreciation of the critical role that the community, employees, and local (and increasingly global) ecosystem [that] …should be driven by clear objectives and is based on the hierarchy of waste management: reduce, reuse, recycle — often adding a fourth ‘R’ for recovery (Hoornweg and Freire, 2013 p.25).
This accentuates that excessive waste production is a man-made problem that affects the earth’s biodiversity and will require strategic human solutions to control. On who carries the bulk of responsibility of generated wate, is dependent on country policies and available resources for investment in this matter.
Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa with a population of about 13 million people occupying an area of 24, 670 square kilometres (Worldometer, 2020). There is not enough land for rubbish disposal. This has resulted in the introduction and implementation of home-grown solutions such as, a monthly community cleaning day locally known as ‘umuganda’ and the ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags (Bresler, 2019). Moreover, the establishment of rubbish collection and cleaning cooperatives that sort, redistribute and recycle trash, has increased employment opportunities for locals, prevents environmental degradation and would eventually establish Kigali city as a positive example for “well-managed urbanization on the continent” (Rajashekar and Bowers, 2020).
Moreover, the basis for this immediate success is derived from learnings from the efforts of higher-income countries to establish Green Cities through reducing, reusing, and recycling waste (RDIS, 2018). On the contrary, some debates have arisen on the long-term impact of waste management, specifically for plastic and non-biodegradable waste. The notions of attaining Green Living conditions has been debunked as wishful thinking by some environmental activists (Paytel, 2019). Scientific findings published at Science Advances assert that the only permanent way to remove plastics is through “destructive thermal treatment” or incineration—a hazardous process that degrades the environment (Geyer, Jambeck and Law, 2017).  Therefore, the fact that food, textile and metal manufacturing industries still depend heavily on mass production of non-biodegradable packaging material whose further disposal requires aggressive removal methods that pollute water bodies, destroy habitats and the release Greenhouse gases, these findings assert that recycling plastics is counterintuitive and only destroys the environment.
Consequently, the advantages of waste management for environmental protection outweigh the disadvantages. This is especially when emphasis is placed on collaborative efforts among citizens, manufacturers, rubbish collection and cleaning cooperatives and the national government. When policies to protect the environment (UN Environment, 2020) from further degradation are in place and sensitization of the citizenry is conducted, the long-term benefits on human health, environment restoration and protection will be realized for future generations in Rwanda and the rest of the world.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.
Twitter: @GloriaIribagiza
Email: glo.irie@gmail.com 

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